YA Review: Defy Me

Title: Defy Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

I was pleased to discover that the sequel to ‘Restore Me’ picks up the story from the final scene of the previous book, and introduces Juliette’s best friend Kenji as a third narrator. The three viewpoints allow the complexities of the plot to be explored while the characters are in different locations, piecing together different parts of a conspiracy that threatens to tear Juliette and Warner apart.

There are revelations and discoveries about the Reesablishment, about the other Supreme Commanders, and about Juliette and her family. Both Juliette and Warner must face the truth about themselves, and about the events of the past, while fighting against the manipulations of the Reestablishment that could destroy them in the present.

The author uses her contrasting narrators to continue her story of endurance, friendship, and bravery, while constantly challenging them to trust each other, even when their allegiances are not clear. No character has an easy ride in this book – they experience torture, betrayal, and cruelty at the hands of people who should be their allies – and each narrator must make their own decisions about who to work with, and who to fight.

I’m still addicted, and I can’t wait to start the final book in the series!

Have you read Defy Me? What did you think of the story? What do you think about Kenji as a narrator? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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#AtHomeYALC Giveaway – winner!

Congratulations to Katy, winner of the #AtHomeYALC Taller Books giveaway! Your signed copy of Battle Ground and the Battle Ground Series tote bag are on their way …

Thank you to everyone who entered! If you didn’t win this time, don’t forget that you can still download your FREE Battle Ground Series novella. Head to freebook.tallerbooks.com to check out the first five chapters of Making Trouble, and grab your copy from BookFunnel.

If you missed Rachel’s broadcast at Saturday’s #AtHomeYALC Virtual Book Fair, you can catch it again on her Twitter feed or on Periscope. Find the full line-up at yalc.tallerbooks.com.

Giveaway run by Rachel Churcher, and not affiliated with YALC, #AtHomeYALC, Twitter, Instagram, or Taller Books.

#AtHomeYALC Giveaway!

We’re running a giveaway to celebrate Battle Ground‘s book birthday!

For your chance to win a signed copy of Battle Ground and an awesome Battle Ground Series tote bag, simply sign up to our mailing list. We’ll send you a bonus FREE novella when you sign up, and we’ll enter you into the random draw.

The giveaway is open worldwide, and runs until 11pm BST this evening. We’ll draw a winner at random tomorrow.

If you missed Rachel’s broadcast at yesterday’s #AtHomeYALC Virtual Book Fair, you can catch it again on her Twitter feed. All the details of the giveaway are in the broadcast.

Good luck!

This giveaway is run by Rachel Churcher, and is not affiliated with YALC, #AtHomeYALC, Twitter, Instagram, or Taller Books.

Happy Book Birthday!

It seems impossible that Battle Ground was launched an entire year ago, but it’s true! To celebrate, we’re giving the Kindle edition away FREE today.

We’ve had an eventful year! We’ve published the rest of the Battle Ground Series, we’ve won an award for Battle Ground, and we’ve enjoyed meeting readers at YALC, Literature Festivals, Christmas Markets, and Library talks. We’ve been in the news, we’ve sent all five books on amazing blog tours, and we’ve shared guest blogs and author spotlights with some wonderful bloggers.

A massive THANK YOU to everyone who has downloaded, read, reviewed, and supported the Battle Ground Series over the past year – this would have been impossible without you.

We’re very sad that we can’t be at YALC in person this weekend to celebrate, but we will be taking part in #AtHomeYALC tomorrow instead.

So join our party! Head to Amazon and grab your free book, then check out the schedule for tomorrow’s event!

Happy book birthday, Battle Ground!

YA Review: Restore Me

Title: Restore Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

The first book of the second trilogy in the Shatter Me Series only covers a few days of action, but – wow – it’s an intense few days! Juliette is the new ruler of The Reestablishment, and she’s learning how hard it is to be a leader. Her friends have overestimated her ability to carry out diplomatic meetings with the leaders of other sectors and regions, and they are running out of time to prepare. They’ve called an international conference for all the Supreme Commanders, and the Commanders have responded by sending their children to meet Juliette before the conference begins. When secrets about Juliette, Warner, and her supporters are revealed, she finds herself fighting for her identity, her history, and her freedom – and risks losing everything she’s worked for.

This is another gripping instalment in the addictive Shatter Me Series. After following Juliette’s hard-fought battles in the first three books, it is harrowing to see her progress undermined by the people around her. The other commanders and their children bring secrets and revelations that threaten to destroy everything she has achieved, and the people around her fail to give her the support she needs. The cliffhanger ending is extreme, and I’m glad I have the next book waiting on the shelf!

Juliette continues to be a fascinating protagonist, but the first-person narration is now split between Juliette and Warner. Warner’s chapters provide an interesting glimpse inside the head of another major character, but they also allow the story to divide. Juliette and Warner do not have the same information, knowledge, and experience of the other commanders, and Warner’s point of view allows the reader to understand the complex relationships that Juliette is attempting to navigate.

The Shatter Me Series is an addictive literary drug, and this book doesn’t disappoint.

Have you read Restore Me? What did you think of the story? What do you think about Warner, now that we have sections of the story from his point of view? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: We Are Not Yet Equal

Title: We Are Not Yet Equal
Author: Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden
Edition: Kindle
Rating: 5/5

For our first non-fiction book-club read, we chose the YA adaptation of White Rage by Carol Anderson. We Are Not Yet Equal takes Anderson’s interpretation of the causes of systemic racism in the USA and makes it accessible to a teenage audience – and to anyone who has not taken an American high-school history class. Historical events are described in the context of racial inequalities, illuminating her theory that racism is the result of white rage at black progress in the US.

It’s a heartbreaking book. Resistance to the end of slavery in 1865, particularly in the southern states, led to a backlash against black communities that continues in various forms today. Some of the examples of systemic racism are focused on the former confederate states, but many take place at a national level. The authors describe an embarrassing number of opportunitites for equality that were wasted by the federal government as it tried to rebuild the union after the civil war. Throughout the twentieth century opportunities to counteract the legacy of slavery were missed, and Anderson and Bolden share a shocking number of examples of the rolling back of hard-won rights and support.

When a population is used to privilege, equality will feel like oppression. Any move towards equality will feel like an attack to the privileged class. With wealth, power, and opportunity staked in favour of white americans, moves towards equality have been successfully blocked for more than 150 years. The resulting anger and unrest in black communities has been framed as ‘black rage’, but this book demonstrates that the problem of racism is perpetuated by ‘white rage’ – anger at any progress towards equality.

It’s a difficult subject to write about, but in We Are Not Yet Equal the authors have created a clear, age-appropriate record of the fight for equality, and the complex history of racism in the USA. They don’t shy away from documenting horrific events, but everything is explained in the context of privilege, white rage, and the effects on American society of a deep resistance to change. If you’re looking for a primer on the background to Black Lives Matter movement, this is a good place to start.

Have you read We Are Not Yet Equal? What did you think of the idea of white rage? Did anything in the book surprise you? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Short Knife

Title: The Short Knife
Author: Elen Caldecott
Edition: Paperback (ARC)
Rating: 4/5

This is a fascinating book. The story is set in AD454-455. Britain has been deserted by the Roman Empire, and invaded by Saxons. Mai’s father tells stories about the Roman soldiers who kept the British people safe, and about the towns they left behind, but Mai’s world is different. There is danger in the towns, and danger from the Saxon invaders. Mai learns the power of the invaders when an encounter with three Saxon men changes her life, and the lives of her family, forever.

This is a story about family and community – love, betrayal, and the importance of the family you build for yourself. It’s a story about living with fear – fear of an occupying force, and of the chaos left behind when they leave. It’s a story about finding the strength to fight when it feels as if things can’t get any worse. It’s a story about choices and consequences, and learning to take control of a life where other people hold the power.

It’s also a story about language and identity, and the significance of speaking your mother tongue when your language is forbidden. The author weaves Welsh words and turns of phrase into the narrative, giving the reader a sense of the beauty of Mai’s mother tongue, and the sense of loss when she is expected to use Saxon words instead. It also creates a sense of difference, of history, and of place. This isn’t a modern-day novel. Mai’s world is Roman, Saxon, and British. Her concerns are those of a farmer’s daughter – how to trade their produce, how to store food for the winter, and how to stay alive when the world turns wild.

Mai is a strong, willful, engaging protagonist. She’s young, she makes mistakes, and she understands the limits of her power. The story follows her as she finds the strength to survive again and again as the world changes around her. Her narration is beautiful, with moments of poetry and pin-sharp descriptions of people, settings, and feelings.

There are some uncomfortable elements to the story, but they are entirely in keeping with the lawless, chaotic setting. The shocking events add to the feeling of difference and alienation – this is a historical novel, and historical rules apply to the characters and their experiences. At times the action reminded me of postapocalyptic dystopian stories, but in Mai’s world there is no hope of rebuilding society, or restoring the comforts readers will take for granted. Mai and her fellow Britons have lost their place in the Roman Empire. There is no expectation that they will be able to recreate the luxuries of Rome, and there is no modern technology to aspire to. The author is successful in transporting the reader into Mai’s home, and giving context to her experiences and decisions.

I grew up in a town built on Roman ruins, and I have always been interested life in Roman Britain. This book shows the aftermath and the ruins. It gives an unusual glimpse into the lives of the people left behind, while addressing modern concerns of identity, oppression, and cultural expression. It’s a historical novel with highly contemporary themes, and it’s not afraid to examine the darker side of our common humanity.

Have you read The Short Knife? What did you think of the story? Were you transported back in time? Do you think you could have survived in AD454? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.